Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the GP in Turkey?

Well, we learned that Button can push all the right buttons on his Brawn GP, but Rooby Baby Barichello pushed the wrong one at the start. Button drove an exemplary race, and after nipping past Vettel (Red Bull) on lap 1, it was game over. Button is now the odds-on favorite to take the world championship.
Vettel did not do himself any favors in Istanbul. His pole position was courtesy of running very light in fuel (he was almost 10 kg lighter than team mate Webber). He was again kept light after the first stop, so that he could take the fight to Button (which he did) and then pass him (which he didn’t). That was the point in the race which sealed his fate to be third behind his team mate. His sulky Seb routine at the finish and on the podium showed that he is still a youngster, or perhaps taking lessons from Alonso. However, I had previously been calling him the “vunderkinder” and I was taken to task by reader Peter Wehrli who informed me that “kinder” is plural. Thank you Peter, but I will now refer to him as “Sulky Seb”. Webber drove a mature race and deserved his second place and really did not need any help from the pit wall to keep his team mate behind.
Toyota is back, and no longer backs to the wall as they were in Monaco. Trulli drove well for fourth and Glock overcame a miserable qualifying session to finish eighth. I expect them to be even closer to the front at Silverstone next weekend.
Williams were also rewarded with a fine fifth place by Rosberg, and ‘Knuckles’ Nakajima was also looking for a points finish until a botched last pit stop put him out of contention. A great change, as he normally puts himself out of contention!
Sixth was as good as it got for Ferrari’s Massa. Raikkonen asleep on the job as usual.
BMW also showed some promise, and Kubica “nose” there has been an improvement and was happy with his seventh place. Heidfeld went back to being a mid-fielder, I am afraid.
Renault came away with no points, despite Alonso being the lightest on the grid (even lighter than Sulky Seb). Piquet once again demonstrated the fact that he is not a top line driver. When Dad’s money (which is keeping him at Renault) runs out, so will Nelsinho’s contract.
Also rans? How about McLaren? Lewis Hamilton did not even make it through to the second qualifying session and was again lapped by Button. Kovalainen had an interesting tussle with Barichello for a few laps (one of the few points of interest in the entire race).
Of course, the battles on the track pale into insignificance compared to the battles in the boardrooms, with eight of the current teams threatening boycotts, being responded to by the FIA waving entries by new teams as their answer. These new teams may sound like old teams, but they are not. The “Brabham” entry has nothing to do with Sir Jack and the boys, other than the fact that the ‘name owner’ is being sued by them. We are also led to believe that “Lotus” has been resurrected. This is not ‘Team Lotus’ with a resurrected Colin Chapman, but some other bunch who has bought a name. Nor is it related to the Lotus sports cars owned by Malaysia’s Proton.
If the FIA does not come to a compromise agreement, expect the top teams to walk away and form their own competition (Formula 1+) on circuits such as Spa and Silverstone run in daylight hours.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned the term ‘People’s Car’ which makes everyone think of VW, but I wrote that another country also produced their own ‘People’s Car’, and it was the first private car built in that country. I asked what country was it? It was China with the car being produced by the Mao Tse-tung government in 1951.
So to this week. In 1907 you could buy a four cylinder, shaft drive, continuously variable transmission (CVT) motorcycle. What was it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Electric Superchargers
The way of the future is to electrical power even more than just now. Many features in the vehicles of the future can be adapted and handled better by electricity, and this includes brakes and steering. “X-by-wire” is certainly here to stay.
However, the auto industry is stuck with a conundrum. All vehicles need some propulsion unit, and whilst fuel cells and all-electric vehicles are being made, they cannot (currently) be made cheaply enough to be considered mass transport. In that area, the internal combustion engine still reigns supreme; after all, we have been progressively refining it for over 100 years.
The auto industry is now trying to make its gasoline engines as economical as possible. The first saving was that of power steering. When this was driven by pulleys attached to the crankshaft, and therefore used power, this was making the cars more thirsty. The answer? Drive the power steering with electricity.
Another method to counteract thirsty engines is to downsize. A 1.3 liter engine is more economical than a 2 liter engine, but it is less powerful. To try and get round this problem with downsized engines, many manufacturers have turned again to turbocharging, but encounter the turbo lag problem.
There is another way of getting more petrol/air mixture into the cylinder head, and that is supercharging. However, the supercharger usually takes power to drive it because it is belt driven from the crankshaft. The horsepower required to drive the blower on a typical OEM supercharger may be 50 to 60 BHP at full throttle.
This is where the concept of electrically driven supercharging would appear to have an enormous plus. Instead of being crankshaft driven and sapping the power, an electrically operated supercharger would give instant boost within milliseconds, irrespective of engine crankshaft speed, and without the large losses of the belt driven blowers.

GM and Chrysler bust - is Ford next?
After Chrysler, GM have now gone Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. How the mighty have fallen! Two years ago in this column we predicted that GM would go to the wall, while all the time their top executives were awarding themselves multi-million dollar bonus packages. For what? For overseeing the biggest catastrophe in the history of US car making?

Ford HQ
Some pundits have been wondering if the Chapter 11 will kill GM’s sales. Why wonder? Of course it will. With many GM dealers being phased out, and the total air of uncertainty, would you be rushing down to the local GM dealer for your next SUV? Answer truthfully!
There are some who are predicting that Ford is next to go, but I don’t think so. Whilst things have been tight over at the Blue Oval, FoMoCo has not accepted any government money and is in no immediate danger of going under financially.
Back to Ford, it may have lost a record $14.7 billion last year and hasn’t posted an annual profit since 2005, but new CEO Alan Mulally predicts that Ford may return to profitability by 2011 because of cost cutting and building more fuel-efficient new models that consumers are demanding.
Ford is also increasing production, after the cut-backs of last year. North American output will rise by 10,000 vehicles from its previous plan to 445,000 this quarter, and third-quarter production will be up 42,000 vehicles from a year earlier to 460,000. Ford’s market share has also gone up for the past seven months, as its rivals have stuttered.
The stock market has also reflected the (cautious) optimism at Ford. Ford stocks rose 6.6 percent, to $6.13 and the shares have more than doubled this year, for a gain bigger than those of all except three companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
Whether it is Alan Mulally or just a better corporate think tank over there in Dearborn, I do not see Ford going under. Quite the opposite. But will it get back to being the world number 2? Probably not.

British motorists claim BMW drivers are the worst
In a highly doubtful piece of “research”, it is claimed by Auto Trader Compare, the motor insurance comparison service from the UK’s largest motoring website, that BMW owners are deemed to be the worst drivers on the UK’s roads according to a massive 59 percent of respondents, followed by Subaru drivers (42 percent), Porsche drivers (39 percent), Audi drivers (30 percent) and Mercedes-Benz drivers (27 percent).

Enjoying what a BMW can give you!

BMW drivers are most associated with bad or inefficient driving according to the survey, with 68 percent of respondents claiming that bad drivers of these vehicles drive too fast, overtake in dangerous situations (66 percent), intimidate other road users (66 percent) and drive too close to the car in front (64 percent).
The survey, conducted amongst more than 1,500 UK motorists nationwide, shows that outdated driving myths are still prevalent, with 37 percent still believing that men are generally better drivers than women and that van drivers are the worst on the road (100 percent), followed by young drivers (98 percent), old drivers (90 percent), taxi drivers (78 percent) and ‘school run mums’ (78 percent). Bus and heavy goods vehicle drivers were considered to be the best road users.
‘Sunday drivers’ were classed as the worst type of driver (53 percent), followed by ‘rush-hour drivers’ (43 percent).
It seems that UK motorists are happy to find fault in other road users, but not in themselves as the survey results also show that 22 percent of motorists rating their own driving as ‘excellent’ and 63 percent as ‘good’.
Mind you, I have to say that generally the British drivers are far more aware than those in Thailand, no matter what they drive!

Valentino Rossi to Ferrari?
This has been coming up for the past two or three years, ever since Rossi had a drive in an F1 Ferrari and lapped within 1.5 seconds of Michael Schumacher’s time. Undoubtedly a spectacular effort, but Rossi has always said that his ambitions are on two wheels, and getting Yamaha to the top is one of them. That he has done, so what is next? Four wheels and Ferrari? Please note that Rossi’s Yamaha sports Fiat advertising, and Fiat just happens to own Ferrari. And Rossi is Italian!
A complicating factor is the current squabble between Ferrari and the FIA as far as the formula for 2010 is concerned, with Ferrari threatening to withdraw. For once, I am totally in agreement with Ferrari. The proposed two tier classes for F1 destroys the very basis of the ‘premier’ formula.
However, I am sure that a compromise will eventually be reached, as F1 cannot afford to be without Ferrari (and Renault, Toyota and Red Bull, who are also threatening to leave), so there will still be F1 in 2010.
So will Rossi be wearing red Nomex instead of his leathers? If he wins this year’s Moto GP championship, I expect him to switch to four wheels. You read it here first.

Rossi’s Ferrari?